Prologue
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Ireland in Winter 1995
Ireland in Spring 2002
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Three men bringing up the rear of the funeral procession trudged along unevenly, one of them anxiously scanning the landscape.  

The mournful drone of the wind across the top of the hill seemed to warn them of yet more troubles to come.  “Go away, go now,” it moaned with monotonous repetition.  For a moment the two Irishmen and the American thought the woman heard it, too.  She turned and exchanged worried glances with them over the bowed heads of the funeral-goers before turning and gently clasping the arm of the grief-stricken woman beside her.

“You don’t think they’d come up here, do you?” asked the American.

The older Irishman stumbled over a rut on the path and steadied himself.  “Aye,” he murmured, “no question about it.  They may be right here in the crowd for all we know, posing as old cronies from the city.”  He stopped abruptly and looked sharply at the other two.

“It’s worth it, you know,” he said.  “We have to do this…agreed?”

“Aye,” answered the young man from Ulster eagerly. 

“Yes,” the American said in grim but firm agreement. “There’s a legacy and a future to be protected.”

The group of villagers, friends, and relatives who had reached the gravesite formed a circle behind the priest and the widow, surrounding the casket.  The burial place had been carefully chosen, not for the deceased, because everyone assumed his spirit had long since left and gone on to a higher world.  For those remaining behind, a small bench under a nearby tree provided a place for respite and reflection; beyond the cemetery, spread below the hill was a comforting vision of woods and lake.

The drone of the wind faltered, then switched suddenly into a screeching whine, like the howl of a banshee, for a few moments before it died back.  A small child began to cry, and the American shivered. 

But then a sunray sheared through an opening in the colorless skies and aimed its brightness on a wide patch of ground across the hill that encircled the crowd of black-clad mourners.   The three men stared at the calming light and then at each other.  The sad old Irishman nodded to the casket.  Indeed, it was a sign, telling them to proceed with their plan.

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